Djerba is an island in south Tunisia with beautiful sandy beaches and beautiful, peaceful and silent countryside. One from the best ecological destinations in the World, this island preserves its traditions and its unique architectural theme.
Djerba is known for its beautiful beaches and dramatic sunsets and therefore a popular tourist destination, particularly with French, German and Italian tourists. It is one of the few remaining places in Tunisia where a Berber language is still spoken. It is the largest island of North Africa with a total population of around 160,000. It is also notable for being home to one of the last remaining Jewish communities in the Arab world.
Buses between Tunis' south bus station and Houmt Souk's centre ville in Djerba cost 26.750 DT and take about 8 hours. The fare includes the ferry ride to the island. Night rides are common and fairly comfortable. As always, on the island, the bus makes several stops - ask and be sure you know where you are getting off!
- 1 Djerba-Zarzis Airport (DJE IATA). Tunisair provides scheduled service from the island to some major European cities, there is also domestic service provided by Tunisair's subsidiary, Tunisair Express, between Djerba and Tunis. A few European charter airlines also fly to the island.
The train line ends at Gabes, 70 km to the north-west. From there, you must take a bus or louage (shared van) to El Jorf and then a ferry to Djerba (no need to get off the van).
Public transportation is limited but taxis are available for reasonable prices; it is possible to hire a bicycle or a motor-bicycle but be careful as most roads are narrow!
- 1 Houmt Souk. With colorful markets especially near Place d'Algérie, Borj El Kebir (a fort with no signs on the building itself but with an explanation room, you could pop by for a visit after the boat ride -- great for kids to run around), and the marina/port to the north, and Habib Bourguiba street (a charming replica of the giant one in Tunis). In the marché central one finds the traditional 'fish criers' - men seated on high blue stools auctioning a line of freshly caught fish to the crowd.
- Guellala. A village where pottery has been made since the times of the ancient Romans and where you may watch a wonderful sunset. There is also a museum of patrimony. Entrance fee is 7 DT with 2 for photo rights. One of the nicest museums in Tunisia housed in a beautiful traditional complex and well worth the visit, with detailed explanations in English of both Tunisian and Djerban customs. A café is next door with reasonable prices (1.5 DT for mint tea) and a great view down the hill. This is Djerba's highest spot.
- Star Wars shooting location. The 1977 film Star Wars was filmed on Djerba. The infamous Mos Eisley Cantina, and the moisture farm where Luke Skywalker grew up, are still standing, and used as a residence in the case of the Cantina. Ben Kenobi's Hut is on the west coast, a half an hour's walk from Ajim, inconspicuous as it is today used as a fishermen's hut. Nice little seaside cafés along the way, peopled only by locals. This whole coastal road is not touristic, one could walk for about half an hour before running into a taxi, but it is a delightful walk during sunset hours. Sidi Jmour mosque, further north, is another filming location, and is a beach with a tiny cliff, popular with locals who row and fish and ride their horses into the sea while the children play in the sand. A fantastic location to watch the sunset, far away from the gimmicks of the touristy North East coast. Go with GPS locations saved on your phone as taxi drivers might not know exact locations of the star wars films.
- 2 Fadhloun Mosque (جامع فضلون) (on the Houmt Souk-Midoun road).
- 3 El Ghriba Synagogue (in Erriadh village). This synagogue is only a bit more than 100 years old, but it serves a Jewish community that has been in Djerba for at least 2,000 years and possibly as long as 3,000 years, and there was a synagogue on this site some 1,900 years ago. This synagogue is a traditional place of pilgrimage for Jews throughout Tunisia on the Lag b'Omer holiday, 34 days after the start of Passover.
- Djerba Explore. Hosts the biggest Mediterranean crocodile farm (over 400 creatures imported from the Nile River since 1992) and the impressive Lalla Hadhria Museum, as well as an interesting interactive traditional village in the back. 12 DT per person includes entrance to all three sections.
- Ras Rmel. Called the Flamingo or Pirates Island, this is a peninsula where flamingoes are present during the colder months starting in October. Ship cruises costing 20 DT per person for walk-ons (and about 40-45 DT per person for the hotel groups) are available at the Houmt Souk marina/port. The crews are energetic, passionate, and fun and the buffet lunch on the peninsula is wonderful. The package runs around 9AM to 3:30PM. There is loud dancing music on the boat, but the water is delightful and the trip is worth the price even for non-dancers.
Enjoy the sandy beaches. One of the best is at the Lagoon, near Djerba Explore, which has incredibly clear and blue-green waters. Here you can do water sports, and locals propose camel or horse rides (10 DT for a ride up and down the beach, possible to negotiate, possible to do longer rides). A restaurant on the beach (the only one) serves grilled fish and other dishes for about 10-15 DT per person. A ride from Houmt Souk cost about 10 DT.
Visit Ras R'mel peninsula, rent a bicycle (almost impossible to find) and visit the small villages; enjoy a simple and typical architecture, a silent countryside and beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Eat fresh tasty fish; go to the typical fish market. Do not miss a Turkish bath. Visit the jewelers and admire bedouin silver jewelry.
A great place to watch beautiful sunsets is at the northwest side of the island is Borj Djillidj before turning left to Ajim. The quiet little port and lighthouse hosts the traditional fishermen who still catch octopus with clay pots and come back against sunset with their wins of the day. A most quiet and serene place sure to inspire.
Textiles, spices, dates, loofahs, traditional clothes, drums and pottery.
In the souks, bargain and don't be afraid to ask for even a quarter of the starting price.
Eat fresh grilled fish, couscous with fish and lamb meat, try "brik à l'oeuf", Tunisian sandwich (casse-croute tunisien), lablabi (a chick-peas soup), salade mechouia (mixed grilled vegetables), tastira (mixed fried vegetables). Fricasse (sandwich bread fried in oil and topped with various toppings). Gelato and pizzas from the souk. Look for the smaller shops with signs in Arabic, the owners are friendly and will explain what you can get, and the prices are much lower!
- Le Petit Crustacé in Ajim has excellent fresh fish dishes and genuinely friendly staff. You can see and choose the fish you want to eat and watch it being grilled in front of you. The relatively expensive price (15-30 DT depending on the fish you choose) contains starter dishes and fresh fruit dessert, you won't leave hungry. Located near the ferry dock.
Drink only bottled water; if you feel adventurous, try fresh orange juice, mint tea, Turkish coffee, boukha (local liquor made of figs), celtia (local beer), l'ban (liquid yogurt; try the fresh l'ban from the milkman, rather than the bottled one).
There are many hotels are available for all kinds of budgets, including of course deluxe hotels.
- 1 Auberge de Jeunesse, 11 Rue Moncef Bey (In central Houmt Souk.), ☏ . Youth hostel 10 minutes' walk from the north fort and 15 minutes from centre ville, in the cool Place d'Algerie. Price includes a simple breakfast of bread, butter, jam, and coffee or tea, to be taken in the courtyard, although the kittens will surely try to beg some from you. A charming place to stay, as it is located in an old funduk. Beware that there are two Rue Moncef Beys - look for the one inaccessible by cars. No electric plugs in the room, you'l have to leave your phone at the reception to charge, but there is wifi. Try to get the rooms just on the right of the reception as they have their own showers. On a visit in July 2016, the kitchen was not open for use other than in the mornings. 8 DT per night per person.
From the bus station of Houmt Souk (gare routière) it is quite easy and cheap to get to the major cities in the mainland.
Various tour agencies offer trips of one to two days into the nearby deserts to the west.